Penguins Notebook: Eaton holds no ill will against Nashville
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
By Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Nashville general manager David Poile declined to get in a bidding war when defenseman Mark Eaton became a free agent last summer and likely has not second-guessed his decision much. After all, the Predators have a league-high 77 points, so losing Eaton obviously didn't sabotage their season.
Conversely, the Penguins are 12-4 in the 16 full games in which Eaton has appeared, so signing him might have been the most significant move Ray Shero has made in his first year as general manager.
Eaton's personal statistics -- no goals, two assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-1 -- are nothing special, but his impact on the Penguins' work in their own end has been dramatic. He also has played a major role in upgrading their penalty-killing and gives Sergei Gonchar a partner who allows him to take full advantage of his offensive talents.
Although Eaton broke into the NHL with Philadelphia, he was with the Predators for six seasons. And while he isn't surprised by Nashville's success -- "They have a lot of top-notch players," he said -- he insists he holds no grudge that the team didn't have a place for him in its plans.
"Not at all," Eaton said. "I was a free agent. They made up their minds. There are no hard feelings at all. I'm happy here, and we're having fun."
Defenseman Noah Welch is wearing ruts in the route between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre. He has bounced between the NHL team and its top minor-league club. He was demoted again yesterday -- his sixth trip between the two cities this season --after being called up for the weekend as insurance but scratched in both games.
"We do that in case we have someone that's banged up and a little bit," Shero said of Welch, who doesn't have to clear waivers when being called up or down.
"We talked to him before the season, and he knows what his role is. He's kind of the guy who goes up and down a lot this year. He's fine with that."
A new style
It looks a little odd when Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu walks around the players' lounge in the pants he wears under his uniform. One leg is full length, one is shorts length.
"Let's make it a style," he said, jokingly.
Actually, there's a perfectly practical reason for the alteration.
Ruutu wears a brace on his left knee when he skates, and the form-fitting pants don't work with the brace.
"I've been wearing it a few years," Ruutu said of the brace. "I blew my [medial collateral ligament] a couple of times and it's still loose, so that's why I wear it. It's just to support it. It doesn't bother me at all."
The popularity of Penguins top scorers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can be seen in prices brought for their game-worn sweaters in a league-wide auction to benefit the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.
Some other jerseys are still available in the NHL and NHL Players Association online auction, which runs in six overlapping two-week cycles, but so far Crosby's has brought the high price of $12,131.
Malkin's raised $7,520. Washington's Alex Ovechkin's sold for $6,020.01.
Auctions for the Penguins, Colorado, Edmonton, Nashville and Ottawa closed last week and fetched $89,463.58. Overall, the auction has raised $170,000 through about its midpoint.